Hospital staffers recount wrong-way driver's behavior prior to crash

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Was the accused driver in a deadly 2016 wrong-way crash showing signs of insanity earlier that day? That was the debate Tuesday between the state and the defense, as witnesses recalled their interactions with Steven Bourgoin during three trips he made to the emergency room.

Many of the University of Vermont hospital staff testified they did not see red flags in Steven Bourgoin's behavior. One nurse even described him having conversations with two people he knew as he was being led to his hospital room.

The jury also saw hospital surveillance video of Steven Bourgoin the morning of the crash. It showed him wandering around the emergency department and interacting with security staff, who wanted to know why he was there. It also shows him declining to check in as a patient and driving off, only to return less than an hour later and checking in for a few hours.

On the stand, Joseph Miller, a mental health technician who interacted with Bourgoin, described him as seeming normal, polite, and friendly -- not agitated. "He was well-groomed, he was clean, there was nothing out of the ordinary in his appearance," Miller said.

"He said he came to the hospital to be in a safe space because of all these psychosocial stressors," said Lauren Macnee, a physician's assistant. She said she talked to him about seeing a crisis counselor or his primary care doctor but said he left before getting his discharge paperwork with the information. She said that's not uncommon for patients, so they didn't try to track him down.

The jury also heard a preview of Wednesday's expert testimony. Dr. Madeline Baranoski works in the law and psychiatry division at Yale University. She was hired by the state, along with Dr. Reena Kapoor, to do a psychiatric evaluation of Bourgoin. Dr. Baranoski's job in the evaluation was to assess whether Bourgoin was lying to Dr. Kapoor, how his brain function was, and whether he had any psychiatric disorders. She described him as cooperative with the test and said she didn't believe he was lying. She diagnosed him with a borderline personality disorder.

"Extreme emotions that interfere with organization. So, for a period of time, a short period of time, a person can be psychotic. In addition, they can also show disruptive emotions, where a person can become rageful. Both of those are characteristics that can happen to a person with borderline personality disorder," Baranoski said.

Prosecutors asked her about her diagnosis, specifically whether her testing showed bipolar disorder, which the other defense expert had diagnosed Bourgoin with. The state also asked her about questions Bourgoin answered that indicated he had trouble with emotions and anger.

Dr. Kapoor was originally hired by prosecutors to be their expert witness to testify that Bourgoin was not criminally insane that night. But after examining him, she concluded the opposite, and so the state ultimately didn't call her as an expert, but the defense did. Based on the defense attorney's opening statement, it's expected they will highlight that point to the jury as the trial continues.


Tuesday morning, jurors heard more from the doctor hired by the defense to convince the jury that Bourgoin was insane the night he drove the wrong way on Interstate 89 and hit and killed five teenagers.

After several hours on the stand Monday, the psychiatrist hired by the defense team was back on the stand again. He spent another few hours this morning walking the jury through what he believes Bourgoin's mindset was the night of the crash and after.

Dr. David Rosmarin testified that he believed Bourgoin was bipolar and psychotic the night of Oct. 8, 2016. He testified that while Bourgoin's psychosis petered out in the month after the crash, that could have been due to a combination of seizures and medication.

The doctor also testified that he did not believe Bourgoin was suicidal because he wore a seat belt and took other actions to protect himself during that time. Rosmarin also said he did not believe Bourgoin was in a "rage" either or that Bourgoin was lying.

Rosmarin told the jury he believed Bourgoin is not criminally responsible because he was "psychologically coerced" into doing what he did.

"He did not intend to kill the direction and kill people and kill himself. He had been doing the same thing he did for two days, which was drive around frantically to try to preserve his life and trying to understand what he had to do next to be safe," Rosmarin said. "This is a simple psychotic error, not an intentional act."

In cross-examination, the state questioned the doctor about how Bourgoin's actions the night of the crash did not appear to be life-preserving. The doctor admitted those actions were "almost certain death."

The state also asked Rosmarin about inconsistencies in Bourgoin's recollections to Rosmarin and pointed out other doctors who examined Bourgoin after the crash said he appeared coherent and did not display overt signs of psychosis.

Jurors also heard the defense question Rosmarin about the psychiatrist that the state intends to call in rebuttal, Dr. Cotton. The defense doctor said, in a nutshell, that he felt Dr. Cotton did a poor job and didn't examine Bourgoin properly. That's an early play by the defense to undercut the state expert's authority in the eyes of the jury.

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